Veganuary 2021 – What Will Be the Top Trends?
By Louise Palmer Masterton, Stem & Glory
The UK is the largest consumer and purchaser of plant-based milk, meat, cheese and ready meals in Europe, according to the Vegan Society. One in three people in the UK have stopped, or reduced their meat consumption, and 25% of evening meals in the UK are now vegan or vegetarian.
In fact, in the space of just one year to Nov 2020, Deliveroo reported a 115% increase in demand for plant-based meals.
With Veganuary upon us, it’s a good time to look back at the vegan trends of 2020, and to look ahead to 2021, which many people predict will be even more stratospheric in terms of growth.
2020 was without a doubt the year of plant-based ‘meat’, attracting not only consumer attention, but also large-scale investor attention. Investors, it seems, are falling over themselves to invest in the plant-based space, and we’re seeing an ever-growing number of vegan and ethical investment firms. I have spoken to a few of them, along with leading vegan chefs, to take a look at where the market is heading.
2020 wasn't only the year of plant-based meat launches, it was also the year that all the major UK supermarkets introduced or expanded their own vegan ranges, and the year that, through sheer demand, all UK food outlets were compelled to have greater plant-based offerings. As a vegan person however, I do think there is a long way to go, both in terms of quality and quantity.
So where is it we see new products starting to gain ground, and where do we see vegan products in the UK heading in 2021?
Yes, you did read that right. I was in Amsterdam in the heady days of Feb 2020. We were on a food tour as part of the Global Restaurant Investment Forum and landed at a place called ‘Vegan Junk Food Bar’. There I had my first experience of vegan ‘sashimi’. ‘Vegan sashimi’, what sorcery is this?’ I hear you cry. The first thing to note is that it really, really looks like raw fish. I admit I had very low expectations of the first piece I put in my mouth. These however were immediately dispelled. It was quite tasty, served with a sweet soy dip, and very moreish. I am not really a fan of plant-based meat, but I would eat this again.
Aside from this, the vegan seafood movement does seem to be following a similar trajectory to vegan meat, in that seafood junk - deep fried scampi, deep fried vegan shrimp, fish burgers, and fish goujons - is popular in both supermarkets and early adopter food outlets. We are however starting to see better quality attempts at vegan salmon, tuna and even caviar, with greater attention to health and natural ingredients.
Sebastiano Cossia Castiglioni from Vegan Capital is one of the best known and most active investors in the plant-based space. Vegan Capital is an early investor in seafood company ‘Good Catch’ and Sebastiano has observed rapid growth in this area
Sebastiano believes a greater focus on health, protein, and healthy fats is a new trend within plant-based, and this echoes our own feelings here at Stem & Glory.
Healthier Fake ‘Meat’
We’ve come a long way in terms of plant-based meat, cheese and seafood replacements, but let's face it, these are all processed, and do not contain the same nutritional profile as their animal counterparts.
What we know about good health is that you need a diet high in natural protein and low in refined carbs, so this is a big challenge to plant-based alternatives. The wake-up call to this is already beginning to happen, and we predict that 2021 will be the year we start to see a trend in the direction of healthier and less processed animal alternatives.
At Stem & Glory we are putting our energy into a trend which is sneaking in through the back door. Ed Al Subaei, executive Chef at Stem & Glory, is a genius at creating fake ‘meat’ out of vegetables, instead of highly processed ingredients. For example, he makes a show stopping ‘ham’ from smoked celeriac sheets, and ‘chorizo’ from beetroot. Using the classic flavours to make the experience, whilst remaining 100% unprocessed.
We are not the only ones on this path either - Tabitha Brown’s ‘carrot bacon’ video made her a social media sensation this year, with that video going viral and garnering over 12m views.
Vegan Ready Meals
The supermarket shelves are choc-a-bloc with vegan products. Tesco has a plant-based meat section in the meat aisle, and Asda has a dedicated aisle planned for plant-based.
One gap however appears to be quality ready meals. Tesco has been ahead of the game here with their Wicked range, which has ready meals as well as products. But for me personally, having sampled the offerings from all the major supermarkets, I am not convinced by taste or quality.
As mentioned above, all too often products are veganised simply by removing the animal products, without much attention to the taste, and in many cases the texture. At Stem & Glory we are in development mode for our new ready meal range which does have a focus on taste and texture, as well as innovative dishes. The aim is to bring restaurant quality to supermarket shelves and raise the bar on vegan ready meals. We believe that as well as this move towards better quality plant-based ready meals, we will also see a trend towards ready meals in general and grab-and-go foods in a wide variety of settings.
Vegan cheese is the absolute holy grail at the moment, and the race is on to be the first company that creates a plant-based cheese that has the same taste and texture as dairy cheese. The noise in the plant-based cheese space is getting louder and louder with each passing week. Personally speaking, I feel there is a long way to go, BUT 2021 could see this start to change, as a few brands are now on the verge of creating an authentic product with an engineered cow’s milk.
I’d just like to be a bit of a spoilsport and throw a caution into the plant-based cheese mix: If we achieve engineered cow’s milk and can effectively replicate dairy products from cream to camembert, are we still, from a health perspective, eating dairy? If dairy isn’t good for the human body, surely an engineered product with the exact same nutritional profile also isn't good for human consumption?
Innovation in sustainable vegan leather is happening. Michiel van Deursen from Capital V is one investor interested in the plant-based fashion space. ‘Leather is not sustainable at all, and since the alternative is often plastic, this has brought about a shift now towards plant-based and biodegradable vegan ‘leather’. Michiel predicts massive growth in plant-based fashion and materials in the next few years, where demand is currently outgrowing production capacity.
These are my top five trends to watch for 2021, but to finish I would just like to throw in one overarching trend which will underpin all others; sustainability. To date, plant-based has been labelled, by sole virtue of it being ‘made from plants’, as ‘sustainable’. Is something sustainable just because it is plant-based? We believe that 2021 will be the year that this comes fully under scrutiny.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Palmer-Masterton is founder of multiple award-winning restaurants Stem & Glory; hip and trendy but accessible plant-based restaurants, serving delicious gourmet vegan food from locally sourced ingredients, 100% made on site. Stem & Glory also offers click-and-collect and local delivery in London and Cambridge. www.stemandglory.uk
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